Everything You Need To Know Before You Build Your Next Website
The first thing you need to know, design is overrated!
Yes, I’m fully aware how controversial that statement sounds, but it’s true.
I started off as a designer nearly two decades ago, and I’ve learned the hard way. Design will almost never move the sales needle, not on its own.
It’s shocking how many agencies neglect the research and strategy that your business needs to be successful online.
Nothing in this article is profound.
It’s all simple, common-sense stuff.
I encourage you to go through the article, or at least skim it and read the parts that stand out to you.
You will walk away from this article more informed than most of the agencies and designers you’ll probably be researching.
Use the steps outlined below as your vetting process.
My goal is to spare you the lackluster results I’ve been guilty of delivering others in my past.
What does it take to make my website a success?
Almost everyone’s first impulse is to start thinking about one of two things, design & functionality.
Design and functionality appear to be the first touch points with site visitors.
Here’s the problem. Your site visitors could honestly care less what your website looks like or what it does.
Don’t get me wrong, those things are important, but they’re not the measuring stick for your prospects.
Your site visitors DO NOT CARE about you.
They care about their problem.
The only reason, and let this sink in… the ONLY reason they are on your website is an attempt to find a solution to their problem. They’re not there to be entertained or impressed.
They’re there to find a solution so they can get on with their life.
Design and functionality are powerless to help your prospects. Good or bad design is irrelevant if the problem and solution are not addressed.
You need to stop thinking of your website as a digital brochure and start thinking of your website as the hub of your entire marketing plan.
You need a marketing strategy. You need a business plan for existing online.
If you take a section or question on its own, then most points may be seen as trivial or insignificant. This would be a mistake.
The power of this process should be taken as a whole. It shouldn’t be seen as individual steps, but what each individual step builds collectively.
Understand your current environment
It’s easy to lose the forest for the trees – for business owners and designers alike.
It’s easy to want to jump in and get started, but it’s imperative to start your new website with an honest audit of your current landscape.
Before your website starts, you need to define the logistics of the process. It’s easy to gloss over, but many projects go off the rails because the very basics of the project were never defined.
First, define your business:
It should seem obvious, but you don’t want to assume anything during the process. What might be common knowledge and trivial to you could be vital to your designer, or vice versa.
- Where is your business located and how many locations do you have?
- Is your business local, national, or is your business national but marketed towards each location as a local business?
- Are you B2B, B2C?
- What is your business offering?
- Who is your preferred customer?
- Who makes up the majority share of your current customer base?
These questions get to the very core of who you are as a business. It’s necessary to make this clear at the beginning. Knowing where your business exist, where your customers live, and the makeup of your customer base is the foundation for your entire website strategy.
Second, why do you want a new website?
Take a minute to answer this question honestly. Why do you want a new website?
Is it to get more leads? More sales? Are you even sure that your website is your problem?
Clearly defining why you want a new website often reveals quite a few misconceptions that prevent most projects from finding success.
- What are your current website’s problem areas? Where is it struggling?
- What are your current website’s strengths? What’s working?
- Who is visiting your website?
- Why are they visiting your website?
- How did they find and arrive at your website?
- How many leads do you receive per month from your website?
- How many of those leads are qualified leads?
- How many of those qualified leads convert and close?
- What is your average cost per acquisition per closed lead?
You need to identify the ballpark of your current pain points.
If your qualified leads are high, but your conversion is low, then you might be better off investing in your sales process, before getting a new website.
If your website is generating a substantial amount of unqualified leads, then the problem might not be your website, but with your messaging.
If your website is receiving large amounts of traffic with low-leads, then maybe your marketing is off. You might be blowing your marketing budget on bad traffic. In this case, you’d want to invest in clarifying your marketing position before trying a new website.
Third, audit your current and past marketing efforts:
You need to take an honest look at your past marketing efforts. Was it a failure in idea or a failure in execution?
You don’t want to repeat the same mistakes. You especially don’t want to waste time exploring areas that have already been clearly mapped.
- Have you ever worked with Adwords or any other digital pay per click campaigns?
- Have you ever worked with an SEO agency?
- A professional copywriter?
- A conversion rate optimization specialist?
- A graphic or web designer?
- A web developer?
- A photographer or videographer?
- Utilized any offline marketing channels? (tv, radio, print)
It’s important to know if you’ve worked with other industry professionals. What was the outcome of those efforts?
You want to make sure the same mistakes are not repeated. It’s very likely one of two things happened if you’ve worked with other pros.
- The “pro” wasn’t really a pro and they just took your money and delivered a poor solution that was NEVER going to perform. This may not have been malicious. They may have misdiagnosed the problem, not taken the time to understand the depth of your need, or just not have known better.
- The pro really was a pro, and they delivered a solid solution, but the solution hasn’t worked because the failure was not in their solution, but in another area of your overall strategy.
So, be clear on what you’ve done in the past. Who did the work, what did they do, and what was the outcome?
So, be clear on what you’ve done in the past. Who did the work, what did they do, and what was the outcome?
Fourth, audit the project:
This is purely logistical, but still important to have this information decided before moving forward.
If you don’t clearly identify these key logistical points, you are likely to waste time back-tracking due to some pretty trivial issues.
- Identify the stakeholders and the decision makers in regards to the website. Who has the final say when it comes to approval and changes to the project?
- Do you or anyone on your staff have technical experience?
- Will you need a new website hosting provider for your new website?
- If yes, is there a plan in place for migrating to a new host? (DNS and MX records)
- Do you have Google Analytics integrated on your website, and do you perform regular or irregular analytic reviews?
These questions will help both parties understand what future conversations need to take place.
Knowing who will be involved, the roles each party will play, and the technical aptitude of those involved will all shape the upcoming conversations – making the process more efficient and effective.
If the project is given the green light then YOU MUST:
- Ensure that Google Analytics is installed and tracking
- The website is connected to Google Search Console
If the current website is missing either or both, then get those integrated before doing anything else. Without analytics, the entire project is running handicapped.
Even a single month worth of analytics is priceless when compared to nothing.
Not only will this give you practical insights into how the website is performing, but it will also establish a baseline to measure against once the new website is up and running.
Define your customers
The absolute first thing you need to do when starting your website strategy – realize, your website is NOT ABOUT YOU!
You are not building a new website for your business.
You ARE building a new website for your site visitors, your customers.
From the very start, everything you do needs to be based on and built for your preferred customer.
Your website is the place your preferred customer will go to find the solution to what ails them. They’re not on your website to learn about you. They’re not even on your website to learn about your service or product. They’re there to learn and find a solution to what they want and need.
It’s about them, not you.
It’s important to understand that distinction. It’s subtle, but the outcome from those two different points of view are massive.
There are a lot of assumptions that build over time. And, over that time, these assumptions tend to distort our view of who our customers actually are.
So, to build a website for your customers, you need to understand them.
The first step is understanding, you are never selling to more than one person at a time. You can have 100k site visitors a day, but that just means you’re having 100k unique one-on-one “conversations” a day.
Understanding you’re creating your site for an individual and not a crowd is essential. Getting this wrong will derail your entire content strategy moving forward.
The second step in communicating with your customers is to identify them. Who are they?
Your customers are unique individuals. They each have a broad and diverse life full of experiences that motivate their decision-making process.
Your customers are diverse, but you can group them together into sets. It’s important to get a grasp on the core similarities between your customers.
Well, you’d present your offering/solution differently depending on who you’re talking to.
Let’s imagine you’re talking to a busy 45-year-old marketing manager. He has a staff of 10 under him and a team of execs above him. He has a healthy budget, high demands of ROI and little time. 90% of his work day is spent in meetings. 10% is left for email and managerial duties. He has a family with 3 children. He commutes to the office every day which takes 45 minutes each way. He tries to go the gym 4 days a week.
With that, it’d be a gross understatement to say your preferred customer is BUSY. He has zero time for research and a lot of pressure to get things right. He doesn’t have time to be wrong and any mis-steps have consequences on several people.
His main concern and value proposition would be your trustworthiness, your time-saving features, and your support for if and when things go wrong.
What's the point?
You can now tailor your content, messaging, layout, navigation, etc… you can tailor your entire site or large sections to speak directly to this customer type.
Imagine you’d ignored this and assumed a robust feature list with lengthy descriptions and cost were the most important selling feature.
Your preferred customer 1.) doesn’t care about those value propositions and 2.) doesn’t have time to dig for the value props he does need.
It’s easier to bounce and try another provider.
Customer Persona Questions:
Social Networks (on what platforms and how do they use each platform):
How do they prefer to communicate? (social, email, text, phone, person)
Professional Bio (If B2B)
Years with business:
Describe job position: (solo, boss, manager, exec, team member)
Familiarity with your business / industry:
Are they personally budget or time driven:
Is their business budget or time driven:
It’s not complicated, it’s just thorough. When you understand who you are selling to, it shapes your entire marketing strategy.
But, there’s another part to understanding your customers. You need to identify WHERE your customers are in the buyer’s journey when they’re meeting you for the first time.
The buyer’s journey is a process a customer undergoes when making a purchase decision. You can get pretty granular with the breakdown if you need to, but I find using the three common buckets of awareness, consideration, and decision sufficient.
This customer is at the very beginning of the purchase decision. They may not even be aware of their own problem. If they are, their awareness is in its infancy.
This customer is largely passive.
They’re absorbing information about their problem and what, if any, solutions exist.They’re literally developing awareness about the problem/solution of their situation and your industry.
This customer is aware of their problem and of the viable solutions that exist. They may not fully understand the intricacies, but they know enough to research solutions.
This customer is now actively researching features. They are weighing the cost vs risk, benefit vs sacrifice of individual solutions.
This customer understands their problem. They understand the solution they want. They also know the features they need. They are now actively looking for a provider that meets their requirements. It could be cost, time, trustworthiness, efficiency, thoroughness, support, etc…
- Answer each one of these questions for each stage for each persona:
- Why is this person on your website?
- How did they arrive on your website (how did they discover you) ?
- Are they at work or home (time of day)?
- What device are they using (desktop/mobile)?
- Are they in a hurry?
- What is their biggest question / problem?
- What solution are they hoping to find?
- What solution should they be looking for?
- What solution/content/offer do you have to offer for their initial question?
- What is the common objection to your solution at this stage?
- What is the most effective rebuttal to this objection?
- What would this person consider a success when leaving this website?
- What would they need to progress forward in the buyer’s journey?
What's the point?
Knowing where your customer is when meeting you is just as important as understanding who your customer is on a personal and professional level.
It allows you to tailor the entire experience to cater to their unique needs.
Let’s say you’re a B2B that offers a $5,000 a month solution. A solution like yours is in-depth, robust, and complicated. It affects a large portion of how your clients do their business when fully integrated.
A solution of this size is most likely going to target multiple individuals. It’s highly uncommon for the decision maker to be involved during the awareness and consideration stages.
Using our marketing manager, he would most likely be meeting you for the first time during the decision stage. However, that would not be his company’s first introduction to you.
It’s not uncommon for one of his team members to have been the first touch point between their company and yours.
This team member would be the one who was won over by your awareness stage and consideration stage content. They would have vetted your solution before making their recommendation to the marketing manager, bringing him in during the decision stage.
Understanding this, you now see you would need to develop at least two different customer personas. One built for the team member who is in the awareness and consideration stage. Another for the marketing manager who is in the decision stage.
Additional resources about customer personas:
- Everything Marketers Need To Create Buyer Personas – By Hubspot
- How To Build Buyer Personas – By Shopify
- Data Driven Approach To Creating Customer Personas – By ConversionXL
- Essential Parts To Buyer Personas – By Content Marketing Institute
- Data Driven Approach To Creating Customer Personas – By ConversionXLThe
- The Ultimate Buyer Personas Guide – By Moosend
Additional resources about they buyer's journey:
Define your competitors
You might surprised at who you’re actually competing against.
It’s not uncommon for a business to be focused on the wrong competition, especially for brick-and-mortar businesses evaluating their competition online.
When you’re involved in an industry space, it’s easy to get caught up in other competitor’s brands.
We, being highly involved, are too close to the problem to see what our customers are seeing. What we think are big moves, might barely be blips on the radar.
Good news, it’s not difficult to discover who you’re competing against online. Bonus, you can easily discover how big the gap is between you and them.
Identify your top 3 competitors
- Who do you think are your top 3 competitors?
- Who does spyfu, similarweb, ahrefs identify as your top 3 competitors?
- What are your 3 most competitive keywords?
- What 3 valid competitors consistently appear in the search results?
How stiff is the competition level with each competitor:
- What is their domain authority?
- Global rank?
- Country rank?
- How many referring domains do they have?
- How many backlinks do they have?(dofollow vs. nofollow / .gov vs. .edu vs .com)
- What are their top link anchors?
- What are their top organic keywords?
- What are their top referring content pieces?
What is their social marketing engagement? (Facebook, Twitter, Other)
- # of Followers?
- Avg daily posting amount?
- Avg post engagement?
- Avg post content type?
- What content offers or CTA’s does each competitor have on their site?
So what's the value?
It eliminates the noise of opinions. It happens without fail inside every business. Someone sees a competitor’s website. They see some “cool” feature the competition’s website has, and they think it’s a must have for their website.
In the majority of cases, the competition isn’t that strong to begin with. Sometimes, they’re doing worse when it comes to reach and rank.
Either way, the assumption is wrong. If a feature, piece of content, or marketing page truly is valuable, then there will be definitive metrics that will back up that assumption.
Being able to answer and see all the data the above questions will present will eliminate the majority of assumptions.
Clarifying your goals and needs
Now, after all of that, we can start to talk about you!
So, what are your goals? That’s simple, to get more customers. (ie. make more money)
That’s obvious, but it’s not specific, and it’s not helpful.
If you have your stuff in order, you might have goals like:
- Get more traffic to the website
- Get more qualified leads
- Lower our acquisition cost
- Get better user engagement.
But... this still isn't specific enough! You need to set goals that are measurable.
You need a very defined goal to aim at.
If you were a marathon runner, setting a goal of doing a marathon faster is fine. But a goal like that is arbitrary and impossible to measure.
For one, you didn’t say if it was going to be your next marathon or when the marathon is taking place.
You also didn’t specify the parameters for what “faster” means. Finishing your next marathon 0.5 seconds faster is considerably different than doing it an hour faster, but both would technically be considered as mission accomplished.
So you need to set specific goals. This will allow you to properly set your expectations and evaluate the cost of achieving those goals. Simply put, it allows you to prioritize what really matters.
Getting more traffic is great, and you CAN make that a specific goal.
- Get how much more traffic?
- In what timeframe?
- By what channel/medium?
- What’s the quality of traffic?
- Targeted around what keywords?
Identify at least 3 goals:
- What is the goal?
- What is the unit of measure?
- What is the timeframe to achieve the goal?
- What are the qualifiers?
- What is the method for achieving the goal?
- What is the probability for success?
- What are the known blockers / hurdles that need to be overcome to achieve this goal?
- What’s the reason for the goal?
We still need to define:
- What CTA offers will be appealing to the customer personas?
- How will the CTA offer collateral be created?
- What is the workflow for the CTA offer once implemented?
- Defining the obstacles and roadmap for achieving the CTA offers.
Most of these will be completed/defined/created during the remaining steps.
Don’t let the acronym scare you… or maybe you should, either way, DON’T SKIP THIS STEP!!!
SEO stands for search engine optimization. If you’re not sure what SEO is, you can read about that here – How to Learn SEO
Conducting an SEO audit is imperative. Failing to do so could be… yup – catastrophic!
The last thing you want to do is delete some content that Google loves (think keyword rankings). Or worse, you don’t want to delete a page or move a page’s URL if it’s a heavy inbound point for your website.
There’s not much fluff here, just a lot of hard numbers that will paint a portrait of what your website really looks like when it’s all said and done.
Technical SEO Best Practices
So, when doing the audit, the first thing you should look at will be whether or not Google is indexing your website.
If not, stop what you’re doing and get this fixed, NOW!!!
If so, it’s good to see how many URLs you’re working with. It’s also helpful to discover if there are pages being indexed by Google that shouldn’t be (if you’re using a CMS like WordPress this is very likely).
Using the SERP result pages (using google search “ site:yoursite.com “)
- How many unique URLs does Google have indexed for your website?
- Are there pages being indexed that shouldn’t be?
- Are there pages missing from the index?
Next, you’ll want to identify any problems with your current website. If for no other reason, you’ll get an idea if there are some easy SEO wins in your future – if there are errors, then fixing those will give you an SEO boost with your new website.
Technical SEO Best Practices: (this will require Screaming Frog and Google Search Console)
- Are canonical URL’s being used?
- Are there any broken internal links?
- Are there any broken external links?
- Are there duplicate or missing page titles?
- Are there duplicate of missing page descriptions?
- Are there duplicate or missing H1 tags?
- Is there an xml sitemap?
- Are there any sitemap errors?
- Is there a robots.txt file?
- Are there any robots.txt errors or concerns?
- Are there any crawl errors?
- Is the preferred domain chosen or are there duplicate content issues?
Technical SEO Best Practices
After you deal with those pesky technical aspects, you’ll want to see how the website is performing. Getting a broad overview of what users are doing on your website will help you put a microscope over what is and isn’t working.
Are you above or below industry standards? Where are you driving the most traffic and what is bleeding the most traffic?
Traffic Behavior (Identify your new user count, bounce rate, pages per session, and average session duration for each of the following metrics)
- Overall Site Stats:
- Direct Traffic:
- Referral Traffic:
- Organic Search:
Website Performance (Identify at least the top 5 most visited pages URL, pageviews, unique page views, bounce rate, avg time on page)
Ranking and Engagement
The remaining areas of your SEO audit should have been completed during your competitor research. If you didn’t include your own website when doing so, then you can do it now.
- What is your domain authority?
- Global rank?
- Country rank?
Website Link Profile:
- How many referring domains do you have?
- How many backlinks do you have?(dofollow vs. nofollow / .gov vs. .edu vs .com)
- What are your top link anchors?
- What are your top organic keywords?
- What are your top referring content pieces?
What is your social marketing engagement? (Facebook, Twitter, Other)
- # of Followers?
- Avg daily posting amount?
- Avg post engagement?
- Avg post content type?
Your SEO Portrait
Getting a clear picture of where your website stands and how your site visitors interact with your website is… well, it’s priceless.
The above SEO audit will save you from some serious pain. Such as, removing content that is ranking high in the SERPS or changing your URL structure and creating missing pages or forgetting to create 301 redirects.
Failing to address any of these common pitfalls could cause your website to tank in the results, potentially losing all your current SEO value you may have built up.
Additional resource articles for conducting your first and best SEO audit:
Keyword Research and Strategy
Unless you have an experienced SEO on staff, or you’re one of those rare-breeds who does keyword research without even realizing it, then you need to pay attention.
Keyword research will help your new website in many ways.
- How real humans are actually searching for solutions in your industry
- How competitive is your page rank
- How competitive is each keyword
- What keywords are awareness stage vs motivated buyer’s stage
- New keyword opportunities
What you’ll find doing this research will be the foundation for your content strategy, site-mapping, and even your paid marketing initiatives.
You really can’t afford to skip this step… but then again, you really can’t afford to skip any of these steps.
How to do your keyword research
There are virtually hundreds of different ways to do your keyword research. Of course, in this article, I’m showing you my way.
Disclaimer: While this keyword research is a significant step, what is detailed below is not exhaustive.
Keyword research is a never-ending long term strategy. It’s something you should always be doing and using to develop your long term SEO and content marketing strategies.
Consider the process outlined below as a “starting framework” for you to use on how to discover new keyword opportunities.
You should explore other keyword research methodologies and find the one that works best for you.
Evaluate your top 5 keywords
We want to pick the top 5 keywords for your website that are not branded terms. (keywords that have your business / website name in them) You can use Google Search Console to find these. You can also use other tools like SimilarWeb, Ahrefs, or Spyfu if Google Search Console is not integrated or if your keyword report is a little light.
Note: I personally set a minimum limit of 5 keywords to get started. If there are more valuable keywords, then those need to be included into this process. You want to make sure any keywords that are providing search traffic are accounted for and evaluated.
Once you’ve created your keyword list, note down what pages are ranking and where. You’ll also want to identify the estimated traffic each keyword generates per month and that keyword’s estimated competition level.
You can find the estimated traffic per month and competition levels for each keyword with Google’s Keyword Planner.
Once you’ve identified your top 5 keywords identify the following metrics for each.
- Position Rank:
- Page Title:
- Page Description:
- Page URL:
- Industry Estimated Traffic Per Month:
The top 5 keywords you’ve identified are the keywords that are bringing you traffic right now. It’s important to identify these keywords so you can ensure you do not lose them during a redesign.
The importance of long-tail related keyword
Now that you’ve gotten your current keyword library identified, it’s time to discover a richer set of keywords – long tail keywords.
Long tail keywords are search terms users type into Google that are multiple words instead of single searches.
For example, searching for “web design” is a short term keyword. Searching for “how to build a saas website” would be a long tail keyword.
Long tail keywords have a higher level of intent which you can use to your advantage. With long term keywords you’ll be able to target users during each stage of the buyer’s journey with relevant content.
For example, “web design” is a short term keyword that is very broad in its search traffic. It’s a very early stage search term as well.
It could be a term used for:
- Researching web design programs
- Looking for web design inspiration boards
- Design tutorials
- Coding tutorials
A longer tail keyword contains more specificity in the user’s intent.
“How to build a saas website” is a highly targeted term for an individual with a research intent goal. This user is most likely looking for content about the process, methodologies, and tools involved in regards to the SaaS industry’s needs.
A longer tail keyword like “denver saas website design agency” is even more specific with a much narrower intent from an individual with a decision intent goal. This user is most likely looking for a vendor who they can partner with.
The importance of long-tail related keyword
So, to start your research, you’ll want to use your previously defined set of keywords.
- For each keyword go to Google.
- Conduct a search for that keyword.
- Scroll to the bottom of the page and look at Google’s suggestions “searches related to your keyword.”
- Click on each longer tail keyword that is relevant.
- Answer the following questions for each of those clicked keywords.
- Competition Level:
- Does your website show up for the suggested related search?
- If yes –
Do competitor websites show up for the suggested related search?
- If yes –
If the you or your competition does not show up, are you sure this is a relevant keyword?
You can even take this a level further and investigate the suggested “searches related to” keywords that are displayed for the current suggested keyword results page.
Again, there are dozens and hundreds of different ways for you to do keyword research. And, your keyword research should be a continuous process after your website is live.
But, with that said, you can’t afford to skip it when building your new website. Doing the research now will keep you from losing your current SEO value. It will also be a valuable part of your content strategy, which is next.
Here are a few different articles on keyword research:
Content Strategy & Sitemapping
Congratulations! Your research is done! It’s time to use all that research and build your content strategy.
Here’s the tricky bit. Developing your content strategy and sitemap isn’t as formulaic as your research.
All your findings are going to be unique to you and your customer base.
That makes it hard to build a set of questions and a formula for what to do next. There is a process, but the questions asked and the direction taken are dependent upon all of your research findings.
Before we get to that though, let’s hammer out a few logistics.
- A keyword (or set of keywords) should never be duplicated. Each page should have it’s own unique keyword target.
- What keywords are we targeting?
- What keyword (or set) will each page target?
- Go ahead and define a working page title for each.
- Define a working page description for each.
- Define a working page H1 for each.
Call To Actions (CTAs)
- There should be at least one CTA per page. Unlike keywords, the same CTA can appear on multiple pages.
- What CTAs will be implemented?
- Which part of the buyer’s journey does this CTA target?
- Which customer persona is this CTA targeting?
- What is the offer language?
- What does the customer get?
- What should be the customer’s next step if the CTA is effective?
- What page does this CTA belong on?
- Is there custom, stock or provided graphics being used?
- Is there custom, stock or provided photography being used?
- Will there be audio or video media files? If yes, how will they be hosted?
- Will there be downloadable pdf files?
- What is the purpose, use, and distribution method for each?
What your content strategy will include:
You’ll define and map out which keywords you’ll be targeting. You’ll also define what keywords each page will target.
You’ve identified which pages hold page-rank and generate site traffic already. Your content strategy will take this into account. You’ll either preserve the URL structure for these pages or formulate a 301 redirect plan.
You’ll also evaluate the content on each page. While Google has found SEO value, is it clear and valuable to your human readers?
Most likely the keywords and surrounding copy will need to be protected, but the overall flow of the content will need to change to better fit your new marketing strategy.
Defining Long-Term Strategy
If there’s one thing that Google devalues the quickest, it’s stale content.
That doesn’t mean you’ll need to change the content on every page all the time. But it does mean you need to always be adding value to your website. That could be blog posting, creating resources, new content pages, etc…
You need to establish a plan on who will be doing this and how often. This will play into your initial content strategy.
You want to ensure the entire flow of your website is strategic and linear.
A fragmented content strategy will lead to a fragmented experience, lowering the effectiveness of your CTA’s and end goals.
CTA’s & Content Offers.
You’ll want to plan on communicating with your customers based on their personas and their position in the buyer’s journey.
Every page should have an action item, a “what to do next.”
It could be as simple as moving a customer to the next page or pushing them to schedule a demo or registering for your service.
Whatever your CTA’s are, they need to be valuable and relevant to your customer’s needs.
Remember, not everyone who lands on your website is in the “buy now” position. Some are simply researching the industry discovering what solutions even exist.
So make your CTA’s relevant.
Landing Page StrategyYou need to consider how people will be arriving at your website. While the majority of traffic will probably be landing on the home page, that’s not always the case.
Consider your entry points or landing pages. Some of these will be your internal content pages. Some of these will be isolated CTA pages that you’ll use for your paid marketing initiatives.
Your entry points need to be relevant to your customer’s intent when they are landing on that page.
Blog StrategyYou don’t have to call your blog a blog, but you need a blog.
You need a place on your website where you’re consistently posting valuable content. This will be completely relative to your business, your industry, your market, your offering and your customer base.
Identify why someone would be on your blog reading your content.
Are you creating content that is shareable but with a short life span (content that is valuable but never needed to be revisited once read). Or, are you creating deep content that will be bookmarked as a resource?
Your blog is the perfect place to not only add value for your customers, but it’s where you can grow your keyword library, your marketing influence, and engage with your network.
Evaluate who is coming to your website.
What is their intent? Where are they in the buyer’s journey? What would they consider a valuable experience if they were to visit your blog.
Remember, write for what your customers want and need, not for what you want to tell them.
Additional resource articles on how to develop a content marketing strategy:
Wireframes and Design
NOW… Now you finally get to the design of your new website.
Take a minute.
Soak all that in.
Look at all the work you just got through doing and we’re just not getting to the design. Do you now understand why I said: “design is irrelevant?”
In context, if you jumped straight to design, now knowing everything you would have skipped, is there any doubt your website would be doomed to fail?
So let’s talk about the design. If the content strategy lacked a pre-defined formula, your wireframing and website design lack it even more.
While design is largely subjective, there are some objective truths and best practices you need to follow.
- Do the majority of conversions happen from mobile or desktop users?
- Is there enough whitespace?
- Are false bottoms avoided? (Too much space giving the allusion the user is at the end of bottom of the page could cause site visitors too leave, missing valuable content.)
- Does the navigation give prominence to priority items, or are all actions given equal weight?
- Is each page broken down into a linear story? (Does the content-flow or walk the user through a conversational discovery, or is it reliant on the user piecing together content blocks?)
- Is there any content on any page that does not fit with its’ surrounding content? Is there anything contextually not relevant to progressing a user closer to completing a CTA? (eliminate the noise, even if it’s fancy)
- Are all button styles consistent?
- Are all link styles consistent?
- Are all heading styles consistent?
- Are all font styles consistent?
- Are font-families consistent? (headings, links, body copy, etc…)
- Is the font-stack (sizes) consistent?
- Does the existing brand have an established color scheme?
- Is the color scheme compatible with basic color psychology for the industry and target audience?
- Does the design fit within user expectations in regards to industry and value position?
- Is the design overpowering, obscuring, or distracting from the content?
- Do all images have visual context or associated captions?(If the words were taken away, is it still clear what story your images are telling – ie, do they ad value or are they visual fluff?)
- Is the design code-friendly or is it unnecessarily complicated creating potential browser/device layout issues or overly complicated coding solutions?
- How likely is the layout to break or how difficult would it be to modify if the content needed to be changed?
- Is the design, layout and presentation taking into account the site owner’s technical ability and need to modify the content? (consider how this will be coded for the site owner’s CMS)
Responsive & Mobile Friendliness
- Are all link targets touch friendly?
- Are all hover actions addressed for touch?
- Are navigational elements easy to locate?
- Are CTA’s easy to complete with a finger?
- Does the layout and design respond well to all device sizes or is there an over emphasis or devaluation to a particular device size?
Call to Actions
- Are desired user actions in a logical and easy to find location?
- Are all CTAs prominent and consistent?
The most commoditized part of the entire process.
You need to ensure that your site is coded following best practices. You’ll be able to double check the code during the “Dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s” stage.
Avoiding the pitfalls
There’s a lot to check before launching your new website.
Most coders will use a validation service to check their code, but this barely scratches the surface and honestly holds the least amount of consequence.
Here’s a list of things to check. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to give this list to your coder while they’re coding out your website.
- Have all removed pages properly been assigned 301 or 302 redirects?
- Does every page have a unique and proper length page title?
- Does every page have a unique and proper length page description?
- Does every page have the appropriate Open Graph meta tags?
- Does every page have the appropriate Twitter Card meta tags?
- Does every page have the appropriate schema markup?
- Does every page have a single unique H1 tag?
- Does every page have at least one unique H2 tag?
- Do all images have unique alt text?
- Are there any internal links that 404?
- Are there any external links that 404?
- If https:// is there any mixed content or insecure content present?
- Have all pages been tested for social sharing (cache, image, title)?
- Are all images optimized?
- Is there browser caching?
- Has compression been enabled?
- Have expiration headers been set?
- Has HTML been minified?
- Has CSS been minified?
- Has JS been minified and concatenated?
- Are the DNS records correct?
- Are the MX records correct?
- Are all URLs using production URLs? (are any staging urls present – links, images, pages, etc..)
- Have all the social channels been connected with the same as schema markup?
- Has Google Tag Manager been integrated, tested, and published?
- Has Google Analytics been integrated and tested?
- Has Google Search Console been connected?
- Has the preferred domain been selected inside Google Search Console?
- Has the canonical version of the URL been properly set?
- Is the website indexing without error?
- Is the robots.txt file properly configured?
- Has the sitemap.xml file been indexed with Google Search Console?
- Have all paid conversion tracking codes been included? (retargeting, adsense, adwords, facebook, etc…)
- Have all third party integrations and tracking been enabled and checked?
- Have all browser bugs been fixed for Chrome, Safari, Firefox, IE, iOs, Android?
- Does code pass validation?
- Is WordPress up-to-date?
- Are all plugins up-to-date?
- Are all included open source script files up-to-date?
- Is the WordPress environment properly secured through the wp-config file and the htaccess file?
- Are all link targets single touch? (Do any links require a double touch)
- Are all hover actions contextually optimized for touch interfaces?
- Are images optimized for smaller screens?
- Do font sizes optimize for smaller screens?
- Do any popups or modal windows display properly?
- Is closing modals done easily?
- Is opening and closing slide-out menu easy?
- Is there any broken horizontal scroll?
- Has whitespace responded properly?
- Does mobile friendliness usability pass Google Speed Insights with a high score?
Setting the proper expectations
You’ve made it! Your website has a solid foundation and you’re ready to take over the world!!!
Just so long as you understand what your website will and won’t do for you.
Your website, as great as it now is, is just a tool. It’s a great tool. It’s an essential tool. It’s a powerful tool, but… it’s just a tool.
Think of it like this.
You build houses for a living. You’ve been chugging along with a hand-me-down reciprocating saw, which has served you well, but you’ve really needed an entire workshop.
So, you went out and got it all. You now have a new table saw, circular, miter… you have everything you could ever need.
But, if you don’t use those tools if you continue to do everything the way you use to if you don’t change how you operate, then what good are those tools going to do you?
It’s the same with your website.
Yes, your website should make a difference. And, yes, depending on where you were before your new website, it may appear that your new one is doing all the work on its own.
But here’s the deal.
While you may have received a small bounce in your traffic, leads, or other metrics, they WILL plateau. They will eventually dwindle, and you will wind up exactly where you were before you started.
What your website will not do – the two most common misconceptions
Your website will not make you #1 in google.
This is the biggest misconception about websites today.
Your new website will not shoot you to the top of Google. It’s just not going to happen. Not on its own.
Your new website can and will help you get there, but you have to put in the work.
Just like a new set of power tools won’t bring you new business on their own, if you’re smart with how you use them, you will be a success.
Ranking high in Google is tough, and it takes a wide range of marketing initiatives to get there.
Your website content and code do play a part, but you’ll need to do more. It’s a long-term effort to get to the top, and it’s just as much work to stay there.
Here’s the good news, you have everything you need to make this happen.
All your hard work that was put into your website should provide all the insights and strategy you need to execute over the long term.
Consider your long-term marketing strategy the bi-product of your solid research and strategy planning for your new website.
Your website will not close more deals.
Yes, your website can help you get more leads. It should also “help” close more deals.
However, it will not close more deals if humans are involved.Your website can make it easier, but if your sales process is broken, you’re just going to be losing more leads.
Your new website should be creating leads spread across the entire buyer’s journey. This means not everyone who becomes a lead is in the BUY NOW mode.
You need to modify your sales process to cater to each lead’s current buyer’s journey position.
You’ll need to create and commit to nurturing campaigns. Your website can play an enormous role in the process, but you and your sales staff will be the determining factor.
What your new website will do
Your new website will be your best salesman.
Based on all your research and strategy planning, it’ll help your site visitors find the answers to their questions.
If your site visitors are looking for industry solutions, feature sets, pricing information, process requirements, etc… Whatever they need, they’ll find what they’re looking for.
A good salesman listens and then ask questions. A good salesman provides value. A good salesman doesn’t sell, they help consumers buy.
That’s what your new website will do for you.It is your #1 salesman who never turns off. It’s there 24/7, 365.
Suggestions on how to use your new website
Your research and strategy sessions should provide all the fuel for your marketing fire.
However, it’s up to you to keep the fire going.
PPC and landing pages
Maybe you have a reason not to use online paid marketing. (PPC – Paid Advertising – think Adwords and social network ads.)… but, I honestly can’t imagine what that reason would be.
If you’re online to do business, then you need to advertise. No matter how niche your offer is, if you have a consumer base, then you have a demographic that is open to advertising.
Advertising online is a powerful tool you can use to target your customer personas, individually. You can also market to them in their unique position along the buyer’s journey.
Delivering your audience to your home page from paid channels is one of the worst things you can do. Since you’re able to target your audience on the micro level, you should deliver a hyper-relevant landing page experience.
Create landing pages unique to your campaign offers, customer personas, and position in the buyer’s journey for optimal returns on all your paid offsite online marketing initiatives.
If you want to learn more about landing pages and online advertising, there are really only two resources you need:
Unbounce’s Brilliant Landing Page Resources
Klient Boost Voluminous & Priceless PPC Resources
“Blogging” – aka. Content Marketing
You’ve probably seen a bump in your page rank with your new website. Your new content is most likely getting Google to rank you higher in the search engine result pages (SERPs).
That’s great, but you need to know, if you’re not actively pursuing content generation, then your rankings will eventually begin to slip.
Your rankings will slip for two reasons.
One, Google sees a stagnant site increasingly irrelevant. If you’re not actively posting new or updated content on a regular basis, Google will suspect a number of problems – like your site is abandoned.
Two, your competition is posting regularly.Maybe not all of them are, but some will be. Which plays into the first reason. Content generation is a best practice marketing method for many reasons.
Since regular content generation is a best practice, Google sees any website not practicing best methods as lower value for their search users.
And, since your competition IS posting when you’re not, guess what happens to their rankings, and guess what happens to yours.
So, you need to be posting.
With that said, posting for posting sake, while it’s a step in the right direction, won’t do much for you if you’re posting irrelevant nonsense.
Create new content that is of value for your audience.
Content generation is a whole 20k+ word article of its own, so I won’t cover it here. I’ll just say this. Think of the research and strategy you did for your initial content generation. Take this same methodology when building out your content strategy.
Analyze and Optimize
This is simple.
Watch. Capture. Analyze. Respond. Optimize. Repeat.
If you’re not going to take the time to watch your traffic and marketing initiatives, capture data on every performance, analyze that data, respond with new, improved, optimized content… then seriously… forget about getting a new website.
Phew. That was a long one. You made it!
There’s so much more that can be said.
As long as this article is, I did my best to make it as brief as possible while still providing take away value.
If you have any questions, disagreements, or anything at all – leave a comment or message me. I’d love to hear everyone’s feedback – I’d love to hear YOUR feedback.